“I have read a couple of stomach rumbling narratives concerning the political stalemate in Edo PDP and its actors. There is now a new set of classificationS; THE New PDP and the Legacy PDP. The Legacy PDP are the older members of the party who have toiled from the dawn of the day to the setting of the sun to sustain the party from going into extinction before the coming of Governor Godwin Obaseki. The New PDP are Governor Obaseki’s co-travellers who are bent on chasing out the older members to allow their tin-god Governor to have a stranglehold of the party in all ramifications. Each of the classificationS has its striker; Dan Orbih for the Legacy PDP, and Godwin Obaseki for the New PDP. Dan Orbih was the State Chairman of the PDP for 10 years at a most difficult time in the politics of the state when the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and later APC called the shots. But for his doggedness and those of others who kept the drumbeat of opposition loud, PDP would have been extinguished by THE curious interplay of forces. Several of its old members defected to the ACN and APC during Adams Oshiomhole, but Dan Orbih and his team of very loyal party members sustained the struggle. So when a new entrant and Governor of the state tries to alter the applecart and derail its organic structure, there are bound to be contestations and resistance.”
Governor Obaseki on the other hand, carries on his palm, the pretentious claim of fighting godfather(s), which he effectively used to cajole the unsuspecting public to win their hearts. But his conduct has been a bundle of contradiction, and hypocritical verbiage that tends to expose a dual personality. And here is why. A Governor who sermonizes about anti-godfatherism on the one hand and displays all the temperament of godfatherism is at best a man of dual personality. Not just on the plank of governance, but more on the plank of politics. As an anti-god-fathers advocate, he ought to submit himself to the etiquette of servant leadership which comes with humility and a desire to allow the people to lead. But the godfather in him would not allow anyone else to dominate the political arena, except himself, the almighty Lord of the Manor. His foot-soldiers are not helping his trajectory. They hail and wail, urging him not to acquiesce to any sub-national leadership since he is the Governor. While in the APC, he had an irrepressible Adams Oshiomhole to deal with in his attempt to pull the rug off the latter’s feet, and another indomitable Dan Orbih who has proven a hard nut to crack. Oshiomhole found his exit, but Obaseki was consumed by APC’s inferno. He had the opportunity to take over APGA, Labour Party, Action Alliance, and other briefcase political parties, that are neither here nor there in the state, but he opted for the more popular PDP, the largest opposition party with national spread. The PDP offered him the platform without reaching a concrete power-sharing formula. The party’s former leadership, such as wheeler-dealers kind of, sold PDP out without concentric input from the Dan Orbih’s leadership, back in the state.
At a most delicate time in his political trajectory, Governor Obaseki’s desperation to save his face from impending political doom and opprobrium was eternal. He traveled forth and back to Port Harcourt, Asaba, Uyo, Calabar, and Bayelsa, to seek support from PDP’s South-South Governors. The supersonic speed with which he crisscrossed those states were typical of a man who was heavily troubled and needed a safe-landing mechanism to avoid a political crash. Accepting PDP and refusing to take up other parties in the statement that he saw in PDP the capacity to redeem his battered image. The failure of the Secondus-led executives to extract a power-sharing agreement soon became its Achilles heel and the effort to swallow all the fortunes and opportunities in the party without leaving anything for the Legacy members has been the bone of contention. By his victory, a midwife by PDP structure and few members that traveled in Obaseki’s rickety bus into PDP, he ought to sit down with the leaders he met on the ground, who were benevolent enough to champion his campaign, to do internal power-sharing, and distribution. Instead, he wanted to swallow hook, line, and sinker, all the structure both at the governance and political level. He declared that he was the leader and that anyone who was not ready to acquiesce to his leadership should locate the exit door. There cannot be two captains in a ship, so he declared, with a gusto that defined his persona while he was in the APC. It was a replay of his archetypal trait carefully imported into PDP from the APC.
He delayed his cabinet structure a yea and ran the state unceremoniously by a troika that defeats all decency; the Secretary of State Government, the Deputy Governor, and himself, the godfather who does not want to be so-called. For one year, the beauty of a hard-won victory suddenly became sullen, the expectations manifestly dashed, while the longing for a new approach to governance and politics in the state was dashed. The joy of the PDP in the state now becoming the ruling party was punctured by a delay system that rendered everything prostrate. After a year of a waiting game, a man they gleefully surrendered his ticket to, had become a new sheriff in town, with an iron whip. Governor Obaseki quartered his new PDP co-travellers, featured them almost 99% in his new cabinet structure, and now wanted to cease the structure of the party, to fully hijack the party he had just joined. His reason? Oh, “I am the Governor, and cannot operate under anyone. All the structure of the party must be mine and no more”. Is that what the constitution of the PDP says? That desire to forcefully acquire the PDP in the state has been the contention between Governor Obaseki and the Legacy PDP members who are being shepherded by Dan Osi Orbih, the party’s National Vice-Chairman, South-South.
Dan Orbih on the other hand is no stranger to political contestation and struggle. Having been fully baked with the nuances of opposition politics in the state, he has acquired enough stamina to rein in any over-zealous godfather that may want to hurt the souls of its Legacy members. Soft-spoken with a velvety voice that is steeped in calmness, Dan Orbih has offered credible leadership to his legacy PDP members by not allowing the Governor have his way. It is a contest between what is right and fair, and what is bad and unjust. First, Dan Orbih successfully shielded the executives of the party who were validly elected by the congresses, from being hijacked by the Governor. Dan’s argument prevailed before the court nailed the coffin. Governor Obaseki had introduced a nebulous harmonization policy after he had successfully formed his cabinet, which was meant to supplant his pliant co-travelers with the existing executives of the party from the Wards to the State level. He wanted to hurriedly organize local government elections without following the law, but he failed. Knowing that the PDP national convention was knocking, and bearing in mind that his desire to have the delegates has been impaired, he tried to now use the instrument of the state to railroad the process to suit his bulbous ego. The supervisors that were sent from the National Headquarters of the party were quartered in the Government House, and a list of ad-hoc delegates was produced. Dan Orbih, who understands the clinical methods of conducting elections, insisted that the procedure must be followed. The Electoral Umpire, INEC was invited. The DSS and Police were invited to witness the election of the authentic delegates right on the field.
Once Governor Obaseki was aware of his faux pas, he hurriedly rushed to court trying to use the court to validate his concocted list. The Court at Abudu, a suburb of Benin City, turned down the request. Another State High Court in Benin gave an order, saying his list should not be tampered with until the determination of the substantive suit. Dan Orbih’s calmness in times of political troubles often confounds his followers. The Legacy members collated the outcome of the voting under the clear supervision and monitoring of the electoral umpire as provided for by the new Law, compiled the list, and sent out copies to the appropriate quarters. He also sought the Federal High Court to protect the valid result to prevent the Governor from tampering with it. INEC has validly endorsed the ad-hoc delegates list from the election as conducted by the Legacy PDP members. At its meeting on Monday, 9th May, the National Working Committee, NWC- had decided to stay active on both lists, until the INEC comes up with the certified true copy of the result. By that decision, only statutory delegates would vote at the Congress on Tuesday, 10th May, to elect one national delegate per Local Government. And Governor Obaseki does not have any of the statutory delegates on his list.
By now, despite allegedly plunging so many resources into this political control trade, Governor Obaseki ought to have known that certain illegality cannot stand the test of time. Having failed on all fronts in his determination to uproot the PDP legacy members, he. ought to know when and how to say goodbye. His illegal suspension of Dan Orbih and 10 others failed. His concocted delegates list to the National Convention in October 2021 failed. His harmonization plot to take over the structure of the party also failed the test of legality. His plan to hurriedly organize local government elections to earn him some delegates also failed abysmally. Now that his concocted list of Adhoc delegates has failed again, what next for a Governor who ought to show gratitude, instead of fighting his benefactors? Leaving his co-travelers in quandary, there is every possibility that Governor Obaseki might tell his followers to empty into another party to prepare some of his aspirants for the 2023 election. That would be a breather for the PDP which has been enmeshed in politics. control by a Governor and government that is daily becoming rudderless, incompetent, and underperforming.
The Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee must be careful not to allow stomach infrastructure to derail its focus on its shared commitment to get things right. The banana peel that slipped his predecessor into the political abyss is still very much in place if a deliberate attempt is not made to get things on the path. common sense, legality, and due process. A Governor who has appropriated all the benefits of his cabinet to his new members cannot be allowed to hijack the structure of a party he knew little or nothing about at formation. He must be reminded at all times that PDP’s inherent norms, rules, and regulations are what differentiate it from the mob out there. Dan Orbih should be commended for standing firm to defend the legacies of a party without equivocation. Those National Executives members who are used to taking bribes and refunding monies to anti-graft agencies should be told in clear terms that walls have ears. Congratulations to PDP legacy members.
Prince Kassim Afegbua